1776 Stands the Test of Time-Another View

Hoyt Hilsman Reviews - Theater
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The 1969 Tony-award winning musical about the birth of our nation is brought brilliantly to life at La Mirada Theater under the direction of Glenn Casale. While some might wonder whether the revival of the Sherman Edwards/Peter Stone show would be dated, have no fear. This production is not only lively and engaging, it rings throughout with contemporary echoes as our democracy faces perilous times.

 

In fact, what is amazing about the piece is how well it has stood the test of time. Stone’s book is merciless in tearing down the myth of our Founding Fathers as an august group of wise men; when, in fact, they were often self-serving, pig-headed, and callous. And for any who bemoan the current dysfunction in our political system, this show is lesson number one in the chaos that is American democracy.

 

However, 1776 is not simply a lesson in democracy; it is funny, engaging, entertaining, and ultimately memorable. Director Casale perfectly plumbs the humor of Stone’s book, which debunks virtually every caricature of the Founding Fathers, from Benjamin Franklin and John Adams to Thomas Jefferson and John Hancock. The ultimate moral of 1776 is that these were living, breathing human beings who were chock full of faults, but nonetheless were able to concoct (or stumble into) an experiment in democracy that would last for nearly two hundred fifty years.

The performances are priceless. Peter Van Norden is outstanding as Benjamin Franklin, combining both the wisdom and wittiness of the character. Andy Umberger is terrific as John Adams, relentlessly pursuing his revolutionary passion. Michael Starr has a wonderful turn as Richard Henry Lee, as does Caleb Shaw as Thomas Jefferson. Not to forget the two lone women in the cast – Terri Bibb as Abigail Adams and Ellie Wyman as Martha Washington – both of whom shine with excellent voices and performance. The entire ensemble cast is marvelous, sewn together under the fine direction of Casale. This is a show for the generations – not to be missed.

La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada.  Wednesdays and Thursday, 7:30;  Fridays, 8; Saturdays 2 and 8, Sundays, 2 through February 3. Tickets: $20 - $84   (562) 944-9801

Following the La Mirada Theatre engagement, 1776 The Musical transfers to the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts (The Soraya) at CSUN for four performances Friday, February 8 through Sunday, February 10. YOUNES AND SORAYA NAZARIAN FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS (THE SORAYA).